The vice-presidential debate shed some interesting light on two men who share the same religion but have very different stances on women’s reproductive rights.
Moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News, — who did a terrific job — asked “the abortion question” but tied it directly to the impact of religion on each man’s political stance. It was one of the few times during the evening that both were thoughtful, quiet, and reserved. Ryan said he agrees with the Catholic Church that life begins at conception and that his view is based on science, reason, and an ultrasound he saw of his unborn child. He reiterated the Romney-Ryan position – to make abortion illegal, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.
Biden, also Catholic, said that while he personally accepts the Church’s position on abortion, he refused to impose that view on others. “I do not believe we have a right to tell women they can’t control their bodies. It’s a decision between them and their doctor.”
Ryan also agrees with the Church about contraception. He co-sponsored The Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would make some forms of contraception illegal and also voted last year to de-fund Planned Parenthood. According to an action alert from the organization, that not only affects contraception, but also risks other important preventive care including screenings for cancer and STDs. However, he could not describe a plan on addressing the fallout from that decision.
Watching these two men, both deeply committed to their faith, and both committed public servants, presented a bit of a dichotomy. If you did not know their party affiliation, it might be logical to assume the much-younger Ryan would be the advocate for women’s rights and health. Clearly looks can be deceiving. Joe Biden has been a long-time supporter of women’s health and wellness — including co-sponsoring the 1994 Violence Against Women Act.
It is much easier to be objective about these two candidates as a journalist than as a woman. When those in charge elsewhere in the world try to force their views down other people’s throats we call them tyrants or dictators who repress their citizens. Here, it is Republican leaders telling 50 percent of the country that “we know what’s best for your body” and too bad if you don’t like it.
We are fortunate to live in a country where freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press are so important that they are the first article in the Bill of RIghts. However, freedom of choice — especially when it comes to your own body — is equally as important to maintain a just society.